The Dark Knight Rises – Lo, How The Mighty Have Fallen

Country: United States
Genre: Action/ Drama
Director: Christopher Nolan
Year: 2012

Rating: ★★☆☆☆


Let’s get the bad news out of the way up front; The Dark Knight Rises is not a good movie.

It’s problems are many, but the core difficulty is the script by Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, and David S. Goyer.

One of the things that made the previous installment of Nolan’s Batman trilogy so great was its resonant theme and how intelligently the Nolan brothers developed it. As you’ll recall, the subject of The Dark Knight was the fear of terrorism, not terrorism itself. That was a brilliant gambit because it allowed the filmmakers to explore notions about entropy and the efficacy of vigilantism, all in the context of the politically reactionary world of the Dark Knight. They didn’t have to deal with the messy reality of terrorism in the real world, which is that those that the United States government calls “terrorists” make small scale attacks on citizens and government installations because they can’t directly confront the overwhelming military force of 1st world nations, and have no other way of having their grievances taken seriously. “Terrorists” don’t attack us because they “hate freedom” or because they desire chaos. That’s propaganda for the flyover states and the more gullible folks on the coasts. The genius of the Nolan’s approach to terrorism is that it made sense in the politically reactionary world of Batman, but had enough truth to it that it resonated emotionally enough to sustain a three hour motion picture.

This time around, the Nolan brothers have taken on an equally rich theme, the financial chicanery of Wall Street, but they haven’t found a way to exploit it successfully in the world of Batman. They have little or nothing useful to say about the financial crisis, and even include some outright slander against a public which in reality has been extraordinarily patient and restrained.

For example, the Nolan brothers invent citizens’ tribunals which railroad banksters for their crimes, giving them a choice of death or walking onto the thin ice of the Hudson — in other words, death. In reality, what the Occupy movement has asked for is no more than the barest hint of accountability.

It doesn’t help that Bain (Tom Hardy), the ostensible villain of The Dark Knight Rises, pales in comparison to Heath Ledger’s Joker. The Nolan brothers put wan criticisms of the banksters into Bane’s mouth, but the character’s real agenda is a poorly imagined celebration of entropy. If the writers had given Bane’s criticisms of the financial sector some real bite and wit, it might have helped, but as it is, the Nolan brothers’ exploration of the financial crisis has zero resonance.

The music by Hans Zimmer strains mightily to imbue the proceedings with profundity, but it’s a lost cause.

I won’t even get into the fraudulent bathos of the Alfred (Michael Caine) character, which other reviewers have commented on. That’s too much like shooting fish in a barrel.

I will mention that after almost three hours of sound and fury signifying absolutely nothing, the coda, which establishes a new character in the series, will bring back bad memories of hack director Joel Schumacher’s disastrous Batman and Robin movie.

Is there anything good about The Dark Knight? Well, there is a certain amount of residual professionalism present, but even that isn’t consistent.

The art direction of The Dark Knight Rises is first rate. We’re a long way from the clumsy sets of Batman Begins. And considering that The Dark Knight Rises is almost three hours long and is about almost nothing, the time goes by relatively painlessly, which is a tribute to Christopher Nolan’s skills as a filmmaker, as well as to the professionalism of his cast. Yes, Michael Caine is embarrassing, but Christian Bale isn’t constipated the way he was in Batman Begins. The other actors are reliably professional in their performances.

But there’s no getting around it; it’s impossible to view The Dark Knight Rises as anything other than a huge disappointment.

As I write this review, The Dark Knight Rises has a rating of 9.2 on Baaaaahhhhhh.

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